FIRST gives ratings to state's districts

Sue Fleming, The Freer Press

Freer Independent School District received a Superior Achievement Rating for the fourth consecutive year, the highest rating possible in a Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) evaluation.

Districts are rated on various performance metrics called indicators relating to financial management, said Eva Lane, FISD business manager.

"These indicator ratings inform of how well the district is doing financially and there the district should focus efforts for improvement," she said.

In addition to a rating for each indicator, districts receive and overall "passed" or "failed" rating. Ratings are based on analysis of staff and student data for the school year and on budgetary and actual financial data for the fiscal year.

Two measurement vehicles, the Annual Financial Report (AFR) and the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS), supply School FIRST with most of the measurement data from which the ratings are calculated.

The primary goals of School FIRST are to efficiently assess the quality of financial management in Texas public schools; measure and report the extent to which financial resources in Texas public schools assure the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes; implement a rating system that fairly and equitably evaluates the quality of financial management decisions; improve the management of school district's financial resources and increase financial accountability within Texas' public education system.

"Our district met 54 percent of instructional expenditures but did not exceed it. This was the only 'no' answer on the 21 listed criteria," Lane explained. "So we are in the process of rectifying it for next year."